Are you feeling lucky? We all know there’s not much actual “luck” involved in Google’s commitment to understanding exactly what you mean and giving you back exactly what you want. To provide quick, accurate, and timely information, Google updates its search algorithm over 500 times a year—mostly with minor enhancements—but occasionally, they unveil brand new search engine algorithms. The latest is called Hummingbird. Named for its speed and precision, the cutting-edge approach to search result ranking is designed with both new and existing technology. With more of an emphasis on user-generated content and customer engagement, Google is transforming the digital world and changing the search engine optimization (SEO) game. But how can your website score with this new search algorithm?
Don’t Play the System, Work With the System
Search engine optimization has never been more important than it is now. With 75% of users never scrolling past the first page of search results and 60% of all clicks going to the top three organic search results, optimizing websites for higher search ranking is a top priority.
Google’s original web search engine algorithm, PageRank, uses PTAT (People Talking About This), which relies solely upon the “votes” from other pages linking to them. PTAT is just one of the many tools in the SEO measurement toolbox determining the position of the website on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Other SEO ranking factors are content relevant to a given search query. Here are the main things that determine how relevancy of content is impacted:
- Keyword phrases
- Page titles
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Internal link structures
- Anchor text
- Surrounding text
- Position of text and links
- ALT attributes
- Proper site maps
Webmasters, SEO strategists, and marketers are well-informed of Google’s many animal-inspired updates, and commonly manipulate the system by using cheap SEO tactics such as stuffing keywords into content and acquiring the most inbound links with spammy websites to master the SEO game. “One cheap trick was to place white type on a white background with all of the keywords stuffed onto the page,” states Jamie Turner, CEO and Founder of 60 Second Marketers. “To the reader, they didn’t see anything because the white type was lost on the white background. But to the search engines, they saw it as a page filled with keywords relating to the business driving a lot of traffic to those sites.”
If you are implementing proper SEO strategies, you don’t need to change your current behavior, but there are things that you can do to work with the system to get richer, more viable responses from search engines. First, you need to align their objective with Google's, and understand and cater to the ever-evolving users.
Users have transformed their search behavior and now ask Google questions as opposed to just typing words into the search field. Adapting to the needs and demands of the marketplace, Google’s search algorithm has evolved by reprioritizing various metrics and vastly expanding the sources of PTAT. Hummingbird manifests a paradigm shift from pure keyword-centric data to more conversational search queries with tailored results. This refinement democratizes the web, gives the user more power and control and adds a more human-like quality to the search engine. Hummingbird uses a different formula to rank pages by adding a content score (the relevancy, freshness and compelling nature of its content) and influencer score (how many sources link to your site, promote your site, and/or share your content with their networks, etc.).
Content is (Still) King
As long as search engines are algorithm-based, SEO/SEM best practices will always be essential to a web page’s score, so the emergence of Hummingbird doesn’t change basic SEO methodology. However, producing relevant, engaging and timely content is the key to improving search ranking and driving traffic to the website.
Google kept its promise and transformed its algorithm to cater to the user, embracing the Information Age philosophy, “They ask, you answer.” To build your brand and become a digital leader, your website must answer ALL of your customer’s questions, because “if Google can’t find it, neither will anyone else.” This user-focused mantra makes it possible for any page on your site to become a landing page, so websites must take advantage of this by creating more secondary pages with new, custom-made content. Content must be original, interesting and, of course, temporal in order for Google to give it a high rank.
Prolific user-generated content can be easily achieved by maintaining a corporate blog. “Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links” because blogs not only force companies to produce fresh and current content but manifest thought leadership and encourage industry engagement.
Social Has Been Crowned Queen
Great content and high-volume inbound links are not the only ways to achieve high rankings. Hummingbird also takes into consideration if other people are sharing, commenting and promoting other sites within the page. With the previous search engine algorithms, publishing content that attracted an audience was all that websites needed to do. But Hummingbird proves that publishers and consumers are both important entities.So what's the point?
Use comprehensive social media integration by leveraging hashtags and promoting content to relevant organizations and industry thought leaders using Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Presence on all these channels increases brand awareness and enhances your digital footprint. The use of well-placed, branded hashtags encourage followers to join the conversation across other social media platforms and add an element of authority to the source. As a Google entity, it should come as no surprise that Google+ is emerging as the leading social channel with the most influence on the search algorithm. The social component will continue to impact SERP and companies can quickly capitalize on this trend by joining the conversation.
Google is adjusting to the reality of the social world and constantly getting smarter. Savvy webmasters, SEO strategists and marketers that “play” the system will no longer reap the same benefits, because the referee, Google, is adjusting the playing field. Hummingbird has landed and it’s obvious that this is not a game of luck!
What else can you do to make the most of the Hummingbird search algorithm?